The role and importance of collaboration when making the UK’s gigabit roll-out a reality

By Sharon McDermott, managing director and co-founder of telecoms law specialist Trenches Law

Whether logging on for a video call, sending an email, or replying to an instant message, the requirement for reliable connectivity has never been more vital for businesses who want to communicate effectively.

Each day, employees who are working from home or taking a hybrid approach to their day-to-day are using a variety of methods in order to both maintain productivity and reduce any feelings of isolation when they’re away from colleagues and the office environment.

Connectivity plays a vital role throughout too because without the ability to stay in touch with others and complete important tasks, this can have a huge impact morale, motivation, performance, and wellbeing.

To help drive forward a greater level of connectivity, the UK Government has committed £5 billion in investment for ‘Project Gigabit’ – a roll-out programme to provide 85% nationwide gigabit coverage by 2025.

And following the recent Autumn report, Nadine Dorries, the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, stated it should go even further and “push further towards 100% coverage,” – expected by 2030.

While on the surface this is fantastic news for the UK – and it’s positive to read that “more than 57% of UK homes and businesses (17.5 million properties) can now access faster broadband speeds,” – there is still a lot to be done.

Collaboration is key

Simply put, connectivity projects cannot progress as swiftly and efficiently in isolation. For plans to move forward at the pace that’s required, there’s a huge amount of collaboration involved.

And for the Government to reach these ambitious targets recently announced, experts in the field are needed who know exactly what it takes – and the pitfalls to avoid – when it comes to successfully rolling out complex builds at speed. Network providers, planners, telecoms operators, wholesalers, local authorities, housing associations and landowners, they all have a different part to play in the great quest for connectivity but when they come together, they each play to their strengths in order to work towards the same goal.

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To put things into context, when it comes to providing faster broadband, it’s not simply a case of digging up roads, putting in cables, selling subscription packages to residents and getting people to input a WiFi code to get online. It would be naïve to think that’s all that goes into these types of incredibly vital and complex projects. There are intricacies involved throughout each phase – and only specialists know exactly what they must do, in order to roll-out a successful programme.

For example, a previous WeAreTechWomen blog goes into the immense detail that’s required for full fibre plans to reach completion, and what the hidden complexities are to overcome. Experts should be able to identify any of these pitfalls at the earliest opportunity, and if they don’t, that small initial oversight can lead to a far greater problem – setting a project back by months at a time.

The right questions need to be asked, such as, ‘do we need to apply for Code powers?’, ‘what budget has been allocated for acquiring wayleave agreements?’, and ‘should we involve a third-party specialist to liaise with freeholders and allow for network expansion?’ All these answers need to be provided to ensure a build is carried out free from glitches.

The good news is, there are authentic experts out there who are true specialists and genuinely passionate about the tech and telecoms sectors. They can provide the intricate detail that’s required for huge programme roll-outs, such as Project Gigabit, to stay firmly on-track.

And collaboration is vital in this instance.

Yes, the word ‘collaborative’ has perhaps been an overused term throughout the current economic climate, but it’s incredibly important if people are to communicate effectively and get critical projects done.

There’s never been a more important time for industry specialists to come together, share knowledge, and work on connectivity solutions as a collective. The sooner this happens, the more likely it is that Project Gigabit will be able to provide universal coverage throughout the UK by 2030.

About the author

Sharon McDermottTrenches Law’s co-founder, Sharon McDermott, is a senior telecommunications lawyer having spent 18 years with Virgin Media, mainly as head of legal services. Here, she negotiated large deals in sales, wholesale, retail and the public sector before moving on to manage vast procurement contracts. Now a driving force behind the mission of telecoms specialist, Trenches Law, Sharon – a passionate advocate for women in tech – empowers a team to deliver straight-talking, business-changing legal support to clients large and small.


What to consider ahead of a gigabit future

Article by Sharon McDermott, managing director for telecoms law specialist Trenches Law

Telecoms, TelecommunicationsKeeping people connected has never been more important and following the Government’s £5bn proposal to commit to a UK-wide full fibre digital infrastructure roll-out by 2025, the future is looking bright for businesses as the economic recovery continues.

This year in particular has seen more demand being placed upon the telecoms industry – a sector that has been vital in enabling workforces to remain productive and allowing individuals to communicate effectively from various remote locations.

And with the possibilities of what a full fibre UK could present – such as high speed and reliability – these factors can be critical when it comes to creating jobs, developing new businesses and helping existing organisations to survive beyond the global crisis.

While the Government’s targets are ambitious, they are also achievable. But, it’s important to remain realistic during such transformational times as there will inevitably be obstacles to tackle throughout such a large-scale project.

The hidden complexities of full fibre roll outs

When presented with vast plans to completely revamp the way in which all UK-wide companies operate and communicate, there are many considerations to be made – and negotiations to be held – with freeholders and/or leaseholders to ensure the smooth running of network expansion.

A huge area that may be overlooked – often because of its niche nature – is the wayleave process. This is the permission granted by a landowner which typically centres around the purpose of installing telegraph poles and cables or ducting and fibre.

Despite 20-30% properties in a build project requiring wayleave consents, many operators won’t have even considered how much of a wider hidden cost this could entail. Such an oversight can set them back up to £950 in surveyor rates and nearly £1,500 per wayleave in traditional law firms’ fees. Add to that the expense and resource constraints that come with planning too, for example, and suddenly the project becomes more complex and costly than first anticipated.

It’s vital that emerging case law is taken seriously so it can help operators in this respect, and that the Government continues to communicate with telecoms law experts who can provide the critical education required throughout the build.

Ensuring individuals aren’t forgotten

There are also difficulties concerning people who are based in the UK’s hard-to-reach areas – how will they receive the vital support they need to feel less isolated and more connected? Plans have been tentatively published – via a three-tiered, technology-agnostic Gigabit Broadband Framework (F20 project) – but that’s going to prove to be more than a minor bump in the road.

With more considerations to be made, there is certainly a demanding handful of years on the horizon for this type of project. And while it’s reassuring to see plans for a gigabit future taking shape, it won’t be as straightforward as many believe – unless industry collaboration and suitably skilled project teams are firmly in place.

About the author

Sharon McDermottTrenches Law’s co-founder, Sharon McDermott, is a senior telecommunications lawyer having spent 18 years with Virgin Media, mainly as head of legal services. Here, she negotiated large deals in sales, wholesale, retail and the public sector before moving on to manage vast procurement contracts. Now a driving force behind the mission of telecoms specialist, Trenches Law, Sharon – a passionate advocate for women in tech – empowers a team to deliver straight-talking, business-changing legal support to clients large and small.

 


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